Leo Nulty – Blogger, Commentator and Motorsport Journalist
This week ‘The Circular’ interviews Leo Nulty, the voice of Mondello Park. Leo Nulty has commentated at Mondello for more than 20 years and has an extensive knowledge of all things Motorsport.
First memories of anything car related I suppose – I had a peddle car which apparently was a ‘Lotus Elan’. My mother was a teacher and worked in a Convent School. I used to trundle around this school in my peddle car and the nuns used to still know it was a Lotus. Obviously I told everyone it was a Lotus. When I was there years later, the older nuns still remembered me and they used to ask me – where was my Lotus. Which I found quite embarrassing in my early teens, but good memories.
1970’s – 1980’s:
Dad was always into cars, so we used to go to Mondello Park quite a lot through the 70’s and the 80’s. If Mondello Park wasn’t open we’d probably go to Santry – the stock car racing stadium which is now ‘Kart City’ on the Old Airport Road. There was pretty much always something on, in motorsport terms, but then Dad decided to buy a classic car, I think in the late 70’s maybe.
I remember he put an ad in the ‘Evening Press’ at the time saying “classic car wanted”. How times have changed, the phone absolutely hopped and my job was to take these phone calls during the day because Dad wouldn’t be home until 6 and to write down what the car was. I remember some really exotic cars being offered. There was a ‘Mark 6 Bentley’ and an ‘AC Ace’, cars that would be worth the price of a house today!
Dad eventually bought a ‘1953 MG TD’, so we started going on classic car runs then, of course there were MGs similar to that racing in historics at Mondello Park. So, we were particularly interested in these historic car races and took a lot of notice. We went to Mondello, went to Kirkistown a few times from the 1980’s onwards and then of course, every year to the Phoenix Park where the pre-war and post-war cars both had a race in historics.
1980’s and College:
Suppose the love of cars never left me. I went to college to do Transport Engineering and Motor Industry Management and around that time I bought my first car which was an old ‘MG Midget’. Actually a rotten, old ‘MG Midget’, but it had a lot of performance upgrades. I had dreams of racing it but never did. I ended up selling it to Dad because he was restoring another ‘Midget’ and he needed parts.
Donal Loughrey, a really good friend of mine, bought a kart, when we were in college – he’d been racing a ‘GT Mini’, a modified Mini, and it just kept blowing up and it was trouble, trouble, trouble. So, he bought a kart, a 100cc kart. We both used to test that together and then when he bought a more competitive kart he lent me to race that one to race, which was great, so then eventually I bought my own.
Great times with the ‘Irish Karting Club’. We raced all around the country and we met lots of people, I still have some really good friends that I met back in that era, we used to go to ‘Kilcornan’ in County Limerick, which is now a fun kart track, an outdoor fun track. ‘Vernon Mount’, briefly in Cork was still running at the time as a kart track and the new circuit at the time in ‘Watergrasshill’ and of course ‘Mondello Park’. We raced karts on the National Circuit, which was great, but I could never win there because I was always too tall. Well that was my excuse, you could lead out of the final corner, but everyone would tow by me on the run to the line.
In the early 1990’s, David Sheane loaned me a ‘Formula Vee’ to do my first race in Formula Vee and I had an absolute ball in that one and then Bob Parks, the late Bob Parks, another friend from Formula Vee loaned me his car for Kirkistown, because he couldn’t go, and it rained and I qualified sixth in the ‘A race’ in the car, which wasn’t a particularly competitive car, so I was completely hooked.
I bought a Vee and then got a bank loan and bought a proper, front-running Vee the following year. I never really had the full budget, but, I ended up buying and selling a few racing cars. Went ‘Uno’s’, and ‘Dunlop Saloon Car Championship’ and raced a lot of different cars, raced in ‘Fun Cup Beetles’ in the U.K at Donington and in Mondello Park, when they came over here for a ‘5-hour race’. I then bought a truck, bought a couple of Vees and ran a team, I had a mechanic working for me – ‘Leo Nulty Motorsport’. That was in the late 90’s.
At that stage I started to write for a few magazines, U.K magazines and the ‘Irish Motorsport Annual’ as well. I started to do a little bit of circuit commentary, just helping out and then Plum Tyndall gave me a break with TV, a voice-over on UTV. My first ever voice-over was a ‘Dunlop Supercar’ race, which Jonathan Fildes won and I was co-commentating with Brian Tuite, which was very exciting times for me because I had watched ‘RPM’ for many, many years.
2000’s – Present:
I gradually stopped racing, I did a bit of historic racing. I bought an ‘Imp’ which was Vivian Candy’s old car and had that restored – Alan Kessie in ASK racing, did a super job. Managed to get a win in that, against a lot more powerful cars and that kind of peaked for me and I wasn’t as interested anymore, I still have the car though. I kind of eased off after that. I had done a lot of tin top races, I did some very competitive ‘Punto’ racing with Brendan Travers running the car, he was really, really good. So we did, ‘Ritmo’s’, ‘Uno’s’, ‘Punto’s’ and we won in all of those. I briefly did ‘Abarth’s’, but didn’t have the budget to run at the front in that.
Then I was working for Fiat at the time and I started to commentate alongside Matt Feeney at Mondello and that’s gone on, probably 20 years. – Listening to Robin Rhodes commentating at Mondello, I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as Robin, but he’s still around, I spoke to him last week and he’s in great form, and his voice sounds the exact same as it always did.
I’ve just become a bit of an anorak, I’m happily middle aged, pretty knowledgeable about the racing scene and I have plenty of history because I’ve been going there for so many years (Mondello). I now manage a couple of young drivers, well, I do PR for them – I suppose that allows me to race without racing, maybe I live the dreams through those guys. This year Cameron Fenton I was doing some for in ‘Ginetta Juniors’, James Roe for in ‘Formula Ford’, Cian Carey in ‘Formula 3’ – who won his first ‘Formula 3’ race last weekend, I’m delighted about that, and Nicole Drought who raced in a variety of classes. That’s kept me busy.
I have my own company now doing promotions, events, digital marketing and a few other bits. Mainly motor-trade related, but not all, a lot of motor-trade and motorsport related stuff in the company and that still keeps me going. Still love commentating, absolutely loving it and I’ve just bought a ‘1934 Austin Seven Special’ single seater car, that used to race in Mondello when I was a kid. Dad remembers it well, Tony Dowling’s car, if anyone else remembers it – it’s highly unlikely they will, it was the ‘ACJ Special’. It’s been locked up for many years, hasn’t been used. I just bought that car and we’re going to get it restored over the winter and I might race it myself, if I don’t I’ll put somebody else into it, but it’s a nice bit of Mondello Park history, so I just added that to the collection.
Plans going forward – not much to change. I own ‘Motorsport.ie’, which is the biggest and best Motorsport website in the country and its won the best sporting website two years in a row, at the ‘Blog Awards’, so I’m very proud of that – I’ve got a good team that help me there. We’ve also just started doing motorsport TV, with ‘Irish Motorsport.TV’ this year, that’s been hugely successful, the first time out was the ‘Leinster Trophy’, so there’s plans to go ahead with again that next year. Keep blogging, keep commentating, keep working with some young drivers and see what we can do with them, and a couple of other far-flung ideas for next year, that we’ll just see if they work, but basically, just more of the same and keep smiling!
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